Aloha, Gophers fans. The 30th annual Maui Invitational is just two days away, and with the team arriving yesterday, I am now making my way to the islands as well. As with any tournament this time of year, there will be lots going on -- yes, even for those of you who aren’t fortunate enough to dip your toes in the sand.
So to help you keep it all straight, I’ve created this year’s ultimate guide to all things Maui Invitational. You’re welcome! Now dig in.
*Dates: Monday through Wednesday, Nov. 25-27. Each team will play three games in three days.
*TV: All games will be played on either ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU (what a welcome surprise after the broadcasting debacle that was the Battle 4 Atlantis a year ago, right?!) The Gophers’ opening round vs. Syracuse will be on ESPN at 4:30 CT. All other times are TBD depending on whether they win or lose each round.
*Radio: 1500-a.m. will broadcast every Gophers game.
*The bracket: View the full thing here.
*A glimpse at the Gophers’ path: Minnesota opens with No. 9 Syracuse, the toughest team in the tournament from a rankings perspective. In the second round, the Gophers get either Arkansas or California (if the Gophers win, they get the winner of that matchup; if they lose, they get the loser of that matchup). In the third round, the Gophers would face one of the other four teams: Chaminade, No. 20 Baylor, No. 13 Gonzaga or Dayton.
*How to still buy tickets to the games: Follow these instructions.
*Other things to watch: Fans that aren’t able to come to the islands don’t have to miss out completely. A live-streaming platform will be set up on mauiinvitational.com and will stream the following events:
- A players’ video game challenge: Saturday, Nov. 23; 11 p.m. CT
- Sunday morning coaches press conference: Sunday, Nov. 24; noon CT
- Tip-off Banquet: Sunday, Nov. 24; midnight CT
- Postgame press conferences: Monday through Wednesday after each game.
Check out all the details here.
*How to explode with jealousy: Follow me on instagram: @AmeliaRayno … I will be posting pictures of all the sights and causing you to alternately drool and curse irrationally.
*How to contain your jealousy: Pull up the Expedia page and cough up those hard-earned dollars to head over to the Aloha State yourself. Not possible? Bookmark my handy guide, throw on a Hawaiian shirt, crank up the heat in your apartment and churn out some margaritas a half hour before the Minnesota- Syracuse tipoff. And tell yourself that the team and the beat writers will be inside a gym for most of the trip anyway …
*A little on each of the tournament’s teams:
Coach: Mike Anderson
First-round matchup: California
That the Razorbacks lost their two best scorers from a year ago hasn’t seemed to matter much. Athletic wing Michael Qualls took a much bigger role and has been playing out of his mind in the last two games, while forward transfer Alandise Harris has already proved his worth, averaging 18.3 points and 4.7 rebounds a game. Arkansas likes to press and has turned opponents over at a rate of 26.8 percent, the sixth best in the nation.
Coach: Scott Drew
First-round matchup: Chaminade
The Bears have been a little inconsistent this season, a trend that should benefit from the easiest first-round matchup on paper. Baylor has been strong in the paint with 7-1 center Isaiah Austin rooting the post after returning for his sophomore season rather than going pro. By his side is 6-9 forward Cory Jerfferson, who is grabbing a team-high 9.8 rebounds per game. On the outside, three-point specialist Brady Heslip looks much improved from a year ago, and has nailed 14 of 27 (.519) attempts from beyond the arc so far, helping to make up for the loss of former Big 12 scoring leader Pierre Jackson.
Coach: Mike Montgomery
First-round matchup: Arkansas
With four starters back, the Bears should have better depth, versatility and balance from a year ago. The 6-10 Richard Soloman has been a physical presence and averaging a double-double early, has taken a step up from last season. Like the Gophers, Cal plays smaller lineups, often with Soloman as the only traditional post player. David Kravish has been effective rebounding in a wing role, and freshman Jabari Bird has been solid, leading the team in scoring with 13.5 points and a total of nine 3-pointers.
Coach: Eric Bovaird
First-round matchup: Baylor
The only Div, II team in the Invitational, the Silverswords have also shown the capability to surprise. A year ago, the bunch upset Texas, 86-73 in the first round, before losing to Illinois. As they head into a first-round matchup with Baylor, the Silverswords haven’t played a game since Nov. 9. Christophe Varidel, a 6-3 guard, transferred to Chaminade from Florida Gulf Coast this year and impressed in his debut, scoring 30 points and adding seven rebounds. Three other players average double-digits, led by Kiran Shastri, with 12 points and 3.5 rebounds a game. As a team, the Silverswords have connected on 22 three-pointers through two games.
Coach: Archie Miller
First-round matchup: Gonzaga
The Flyers are coming off a hot stretch after a win at Georgia Tech on Wednesday. The 6-7 senior forward Devin Oliver is the foundation of the frontcourt, averaging 13 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. Even with Kevin Dillard – who was among the all-time Flyers leaders in assists – gone, Dayton has been a good shooting team and has played fast, if a little sloppy at times. Forward Dyshawn Pierre (12 points, 5.3 rebounds a game) has kicked things up a notch, and Ohio State transfer wing Jordan Sibert has been a big help, providing 13.8 points and 3.3 rebounds a game.
Coach: Mark Few
First-round matchup: Dayton
The Bulldogs lost their entire frontcourt from a year ago, when Gonzaga secured a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, but now all of last year’s depth is stepping up. Six-nine senior Sam Dower and 7-1 sophomore Przemek Karnowski have each stepped up to the challenge and been very good. The problem for Gonzaga is that unlike last season, the bench is very short. But all of the current starters have taken leaps with their performances, including guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr, who are the focus of one of the nation’s most efficient offenses and have both been stellar. As a team, the Bulldogs have shot very well from three-point range, connecting on 45 of 93 (48.4 percent).
Coach: Jim Boeheim
First-round matchup: Minnesota
CJ Fair’s decision to forego the NBA draft could not possibly mean more for the Orange, which lost three of its four best players from a year ago. Fair is averaging 18 points and 5.5 rebounds a game and is the core of one of the best frontcourts in the nation, full of length and athleticism. Six-eight sophomore Jerami Grant has taken off, and the Orange has plenty of depth at center with differing options in Rakeem Christmas, Baye Moussa Keita and DaJuan Coleman. Syracuse has been ever-solid defensively, utilizing their signature 2-3 zone, but the Orange hasn’t been completely air-tight, nearly losing to a much-inferior St. Francis team last week.
Coach: Richard Pitino
First-round matchup: Syracuse
After losing forwards Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams, the Gophers, as expected, have been a very guard-oriented team. Andre Hollins seems primed to take the next step and Austin Hollins has impressed with his efforts on the boards, snatching up 7.8 rebounds a game. The super quick JUCO point guard, 5-9 DeAndre Mathieu slid in seamlessly at his position and has collected 5.6 assists per game to go along with a solid scoring effort. But the frontcourt has brought the biggest surprises. Elliott Eliason is averaging 11.2 rebounds a game after just 3.5 last year and 6-9 forward Oto Osenieks has looked like a new player early on. The concern is the depth, where the only other two forwards in the rotation missed time coming into Maui, Mo Walker – who won’t return until the second round – on suspension and Joey King with a fractured jaw.